First, I’d like to say thank you as I now have 200+ followers! Thank you for taking time to read and response to my bookish posts. You make blogging worthwhile!
Today I am back with a review of a neat read that my neighborhood book group is reading this month. We aren’t meeting until next week, but I was so excited to read this book that I already finished. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is a New York Times bestselling novel that follows the story of two best friends–Kittyhawk and Verity–who are part of the British war effort during WWII.
*I do use spoilers in this post in order to give my full opinion of the novel.
- I love this novel. I love WWII novels generally, but–wow–this one is seriously incredible.
- I have not read many spy novels. The way this novel is written is so unique and so cool! More on this later.
- I love the double perspective. Both women offer such rich descriptions of their emotional and physical journeys.
Code Name Verity follows the dual story of two British women–one a spy and one a pilot–during WWII. While flying into Nazi occupied France, their plane is shot down. Verity (her code name) is captured and tortured for information by the Gestapo. She decided to write a full confession (in novel form) that isn’t what her captors (or the readers) will expect. Meanwhile, Kittyhawk (also a code name) survives the crash landing and must fight for her survival and Verity’s. Told through both perspectives, Code Name Verity is an incredible journey of friendship, survival, and truth.
The first character we meet is Verity, and I was still learning more about her when the novel concluded. Verity is Scottish–not English. She is an incredible brilliant, undercover spy who can also speak German. She first introduces herself in the third person as part of her confession novel. I am in awe of Verity’s gumption, ingenuity, strength, and courage. The way she tells her story is unique because of its form. She’s writing her confession because knows she will be killed. And she isn’t perfect. In fact, she admits her faults throughout her account. I would get sucked into her account of life before her capture, then equally value her snippets of experiences from her twisted, abnormal present.
I was startled when Verity’s account ended in the middle of the novel, and we got to hear from Kittyhawk.
In many ways, Kittyhawk is the opposite of Verity. She plays by the rules. She is a gifted pilot who loves to fly. She wasn’t supposed to go to France and certainly not end up there. I identified more with her because she was a bit more cautious and a bit more of a homebody. But she also loved an adventure. I spent the first half of the novel thinking she was dead. Her account is honest and raw–while she is fighting for freedom, not everything goes right. Perhaps that’s why this novel resonates so much with me–it’s not constructed in an ideal world. It feels and reads like reality.
I loved the dual perspectives because they gave a voice to both of these best friends. We get to understand why they are similar and why they are different. I have not read a novel with such incredible perspectives before (expect perhaps All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which is also a WWII novel. Perhaps this time period lends itself well to emotion and perspective). It reads like two people. We get Verity’s intense and wandering confession. And the informality of Kittyhawk’s rushed account in France. The emotions are beautifully and completely captured. Well done, Elizabeth Wein!
This novel also has a unique and gripping organization. We are landed in the middle of the action. Verity is captured and telling us the back story up until her present moment. We know how it ends (she gets captured) but not how we get there. And even though I thought I could predict how it happens, I couldn’t. The plot twisted in surprising ways throughout the novel–leaving me on the edge of my seat and with my mouth hanging open. I especially loved Verity’s account and the way she went back and forth between her story and her present.
The ending shocked me. I don’t want to give too much away. But it seriously shocked me. After thinking more about it, I see how it perfectly fits into the story. And how it culminates Verity and Kittyhawk’s journey and their friendship.
If I have any qualms about this novel, they are small. It was a bit hard for me to get into at the start. And WWII books often leave me feeling a bit serious and depressed. The story is not completely happy and good. In fact, there are a lot of difficult, intense and sad elements to this novel. I don’t think it should have been more happy than it was–but these types of books require a certain amount of recovery time for me.
The thematic elements of this novel are fantastic–especially for a literature nerd with a Master’s degree like me! The title is so beautiful. Verity means truth. And it is continually a question whether Verity herself is telling the truth and how she will tell the truth (again, the ending is incredible for understanding the role of truth in the novel!). The girls’ lists of what they fear are intriguing. Their fears change throughout the novel and I would love to take more time to study how and why their fears change. Finally, friendship is central to this story. At it’s heart, this novel is about friendship. It’s about sacrificing everything for friendship–no matter how far or how much.
I highly recommend Code Name Verity–an incredible, intense, and moving novel!
What did you think of Code Name Verity?
What WWII novels do I need to add to my TBR?